Jake Fromm did what he always does. He retreated to the woods.
An avid outdoorsman, Fromm especially enjoys duck hunting. It happens to be duck season in Georgia, and other states as well. So, faced with the biggest decision of his life, Fromm pulled on his waterproof camos and waded into a duck blind to think, pray and shoot.
According to people close to Fromm, he did that at least three times over the past few weeks, in South Georgia, near his home in Middle Georgia and even once up in Nashville, Tenn., while contemplating his pro football decision. It’s unclear how many ducks Fromm bagged, but he’d be hard-pressed to bag as many victories as he did playing quarterback for the Georgia Bulldogs. That’d be 35 in 43 games.
“That’s exactly what he did,” said Von Lassiter, who was Fromm’s coach at Houston County High and has accompanied the Georgia quarterback on more than a few hunting trips. “He’s been all over the place hunting. Whoever will have him, that’s where he shows up. That’s what he likes to do.”
Lassiter is pretty certain that it was on one of those excursions that Fromm reached his decision to forego his senior season at Georgia and enter the NFL draft. Fromm said during Sugar Bowl preparations that he would consult Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart, his family and his God about what to do.
“Just pray,” Fromm told the AJC. “I know God is not going to give me anything I can’t handle, so I’m always going to be ready for it.”
» MARK BRADLEY: Why would Jake Fromm choose to leave?
It’s was a shocking conclusion to many, but not to Lassiter.
“I think it’s good that he’s taking the next step,” Lassiter said Wednesday. “The bottom line is that he’s happy, and he’s passionate about his decision. Jake has always been at his best when he had a major challenge and something new to work for. So I’m excited to see him tackle this challenge and see how good he can be.”
Fromm was very good for the Bulldogs. Among those 35 wins came SEC Eastern Division titles, one SEC championship, one Rose Bowl victory, a Sugar Bowl win and an oh-so-close overtime loss in College Football Playoff championship game. Quite notably, he has never lost to Tennessee, Florida or Georgia Tech.
The knock on Fromm toward the end of his college career was that he lacked an elite arm and mobility. Perhaps, but, he passed for 8,224 yards and 78 touchdowns. That’s fourth and second on Georgia’s career list. The three ahead of him — Aaron Murray, David Greene and Eric Zeier — all played their senior seasons.
Fromm leaves with the best completion percentage in UGA history (.630) of players with as many attempts. He had only 18 interceptions.
According to the many NFL draft projections out there, Fromm on average is considered the fourth-ranked quarterback prospect in the 2020 class. Based on the expectations for the three quarterbacks ranked ahead of Fromm — Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert — that places him in the second- to fourth-round range.
“He’ll be a second-day guy more than likely,” an NFC evaluator told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Wednesday. “He’s in that range where Andy Dalton and those type of guys get drafted.”
Dalton was a second-round pick by the Bengals coming out of TCU in 2011.
That meshes with the information Fromm’s inner circle was getting.
“Everybody’s been saying he’d probably be the fourth quarterback taken,” Lassiter said. “And, you know, it’s tough to be a starting quarterback in the SEC for three years, playing in all those big-time games. They work so hard, and it’s a grind. Not many people playing in the NFL play four straight years in the SEC. That’s why I think it makes sense to make the next step now.”
Former Georgia quarterback D.J. Shockley agreed. A Falcons draftee after playing his senior season with the Bulldogs, Shockley doesn’t think there was anything Fromm could do to change his status with professional evaluators.
“I don’t think what he did in the next year would help or hurt him at all,” said Shockley, who is a college football analyst with the SEC Network. “He’s played three years in the SEC and that speaks volumes. You’ve seen him in big games, you’ve seen him leads his team, you’ve seen how he works and prepares. Ultimately, him leaving now probably bodes well for him. Scouts know exactly who he is.”
There also is the factor of all the other offensive talent on the way out at Georgia. Fromm knew well before making his announcement via social media Wednesday that he was going to be without starting offensive tackles Andrew Thomas and Isaiah Wilson, as well as both tight ends and two of the Bulldogs’ top five receivers. Then starting left guard Solomon Kindley opted to turn pro Tuesday and starting right guard Cade Mays entered the transfer portal Wednesday.
Fromm would take that group out to eat regularly and reward them with his grandmother’s cookies when he wasn’t sacked in a game, which happened more often than it didn’t.
Lassiter said it’s likely the reality of an offensive-line rebuild entered into Fromm’s decision.
“I’m sure it did,” he said. “They’ve been really good up front.”
Hence, Fromm’s much-awaited decision. Georgia fans had been fraught with anticipation in the last week as player after player made announcements via social media.
Drama surrounded Fromm from the beginning, replacing an injured 5-star quarterback his freshman season in Jacob Eason (who will be included in this same draft, controversially beating out another 5-star signee in Justin Fields, who would ultimately transfer, and then leading Georgia to a third consecutive season of 11 or more wins this year.
Finally, Fromm let the world know about 1:30 p.m. Wednesday with a long, heartfelt message posted to his Twitter and Instagram accounts.
He thanked coach Kirby Smart for believing in him and helping him grow from “that wide-eyed, scared 18-year-old who got handed the ball in South Bend in to a better man and better football player.”
“Thank you through the good times and the bad,” he wrote. “I always felt your support and I hope I mean as much to you as you do to me.”
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